A short ferry ride from Matsuyama in Ehime Prefecture lies Gogo Island (興居島), or Gogoshima, a mesmerizing beach paradise that one would not expect to find in Japan. With turquoise water and golden sand, you’ll feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Japan is very unique in that the further south you go the more tropical the beaches become, the pinnacle being the island of Okinawa, while in the far north of Hokkaido the weather is chilly, and snow is the norm. Before living here, I was unaware of how stunning the southwest Japanese coast was, and therefore, now I seize every chance I can to explore this beautiful area.
If you have even a morning or an afternoon free in Matsuyama, I would recommend jumping on the ferry at Takahama Port to Gogoshima. Visible from the mainland, you will arrive in less than 15 minutes, making it a convenient and achievable trip.
You can take a car or a bike with you on the ferry. There is no need to buy a ticket until you are on the boat; an attendant will come around and issue you a ticket in exchange for a small fee.
There are two ports in Gogoshima, both on the east coast facing Matsuyama. Yura Port is further north and Tomari Port is to the south. Unless you are planning to walk to a particular site on the island, it is not important which port you go to initially. If you bring your bike or your car, you can easily circle around the whole island in a short time.
Being one of many rural islands you can visit in the Seto Inland Sea, the main attractions in Gogoshima are the beaches, shrines, hiking trails, citrus farming and fishing sites.
There is a map at the port which shows the points of interest on the island; I would advise taking a photo when you arrive in order to successfully navigate your way around.
There are a number of small mountains on the island, most of which you can hike if you are so inclined. The biggest mountain at 123m high is ambitiously called Kofujiyama, or little Mt. Fuji. It is a cruisy hour’s walk to the top and offers great views of the Ehime coastline and the surrounding islands.
When my fiancé and in-laws visited Gogoshima seeking relief from the sweltering heatwave that hit Japan this summer, we aimed straight for Aikogahama Beach at the very southern end of the island. The other main beach is Washigasu on the west coast which can be easily reached from Yura Port. We landed at Tomari Port, where there were many locals with pickup trucks offering to drive visitors over the hill to Aikogahama Beach. We opted to walk the short distance so we could have a look at the island on the way.
While there are a number of isolated beaches, in summer it is a good idea to visit one of the main beaches because of the great island atmosphere. In general Japanese people are very conservative so it was nice to see them letting loose on the beach and having a great time.
The area is well set up for all sorts of beach activities whatever your preference may be. There is an area in the ocean roped off for swimming which also contains two jetties. Jet skis are available for hire, or you can take a ride behind one on a banana boat.
During the summer months there are a few stalls selling drinks and seafood alongside the ever-present vending machines. However, what most people seemed to be doing is bringing their own meat and other food and making their own feasts using the barbecues they have available along with the many picnic tables. We had only brought snacks and were extremely envious of the impressive array around us! The barbecue area is thankfully under shade, which in summer offers welcome respite from the sun and a comfortable place to rest.
The water is amazing and in summer it is warm enough to float around for a fair while. Within the roped area there are nice spots for paddling as well as places where it is deep enough to not touch the bottom, so there is a nice range catering to all types of swimmers.
Just a warning, the Japanese sun is surprisingly strong so don’t forget your sunscreen!
From Matsuyama to Takahama Port: At Matsuyama City Station, take the Iyo Tetsudo Takahama Line towards Takahama (¥410). You will arrive in under 30 minutes.
See timetable below for ferry departure times. Please note that this was during the summer months, and so it may have been updated since August 2018.